Episode 97: Interview with Rebecca Masisak, CEO of TechSoup, a non-profit international network of NGOs that provide technical support and technological tools to other nonprofits and social benefit organisations

Rebecca Masisak is CEO of TechSoup–she sets the strategic direction and provides executive oversight of all aspects of the organization and its global operations. Ms. Masisak joined TechSoup in 2001 to launch its e-commerce donation platform, moving the organization from a local San Francisco Bay Area focus to a national reach. In 2006, she founded the TechSoup Global Network to scale the program’s impact globally. Ms. Masisak became CEO of the organization in 2012, after having served the prior six years as co-CEO. She previously worked as a strategy consultant with Coopers & Lybrand and in leadership roles at several Internet businesses.

Ms. Masisak holds an M.B.A. from the Columbia University Business School. In 2017, she was honored as one of the nonprofit sector’s “top 50 most influential leaders” by the Nonprofit Times and named one of the “most influential women of the Bay Area” by the San Francisco Business Times. She co-leads the Bay Area Social Enterprise Leadership Forum.

In this insightful interview, Rebecca talks about the tech challenges that NGOs and social benefit organisations face, the importance of technology within the sector and TechSoup’s growth and evolution. She highlights the key role of tech donors supporting the sector and the way that TechSoup works with a growing number of corporate donors to deliver services around the world. Rebecca also identifies some of the distinct problems that NGOs face trying to fund technology development in the current business climate. She also discusses how the organisation has dealt with scaling, collectively growing the tech resources devoted to expanding the capacity of the global social sector and how the organisation has achieved its hugely impressive impact.

TechSoup has recently launched a $11.5 million growth capital campaign, an ambitious initiative to nearly double the number of nonprofit organizations it serves. The campaign includes opportunities to invest in TechSoup’s growth through a Direct Public Offering (DPO). With investment minimums as low as $50, the DPO is uniquely structured to engage with TechSoup’s community, including the nonprofits they serve and the technology companies they partner with. The DPO is gathering grassroots support and attracting the interest of major impact investors, including Microsoft Philanthropies, which recently made a $1 million impact investment into the DPO. The investment will enable TechSoup to develop new offerings to help nonprofits utilize technology to amplify their mission and impact. The investment it will also encourage investors of all stripes to support TechSoup’s growth initiative and catalyze the impact to the sector.

Episode 96: Interview with Jed Emerson author of The Purpose of Capital: Elements of Impact, Financial Flows, and Natural Being

Episode 96: Interview with Jed Emerson author of The Purpose of Capital: Elements of Impact, Financial Flows, and Natural Being

In this inspiring and thought-provoking interview, Jed describes his decades long work in the field of impact investment and the motivation behind his most recent book The Purpose of Capital: Elements of Impact, Financial Flows, and Natural Being. Jed explores the historic roots of our understanding of capital—and goes on to suggest that the idea that there is this gap between philanthropic capital and market rate capital is not correct-that all investments should be considered impactful. Rather than seeing progress as linear, Jed argues we should consider it as a spiral, where we can search for both a deeper and higher understanding. He also asks us to stop seeing ourselves and our successes as separate, but rather to see how we are all connected—and he challenges each of us to pause and reflect on what our fundamental intent is – to be successful, or to have a positive impact—and inspires us to transform financial and investment models to optimize the legacy we leave on society and the environment. This is a fascinating discussion questions the idea that financial returns re the main driver for creating impact in the world and offers the prospect of healing the long standing separation between economic/financial value and social/environmental value.
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Jed Emerson is strategic advisor to family offices and wealth management firms executing diverse approaches to investing for financial returns with social and environmental impact. Co-author of the first book on impact investing, as well as six other books on impact investing and social entrepreneurship, he has been active in both fields for nearly thirty years. He has served as founding director and board member of diverse social enterprises and impact investment groups. Emerson is a Senior Research Fellow at University of Heidelberg’s Center on Social Investing and has held faculty appointments at Harvard, Stanford and Oxford business schools. He has taught social entrepreneurship at Kellogg Business School and NYU-Abu Dhabi in the U.A.E. In the late 90s, Emerson coined the concept of Blended Value to describe the reality that the value we create in our lives and through our investing is a blend of social, environmental and economic elements. While the value we create is whole, we are asked to choose between doing well or doing good, making money or engaging in philanthropy and working in nonprofit or for-profit organizations.

Episode 94: Interview with Randy Paynter, founder of Care2

Randy P picRandy P picWith a natural philanthropic spirit, Randy Paynter founded the online advocacy website, Care2, in 1998 with the hope of making the world a kinder, more inclusive, and sustainable space. The business works by focusing on two aspects in which to generate support for social and environmental causes around the world. First, they empower individuals to take collective action through the petition of their own campaigns. Second, they work directly with non-profits to craft campaigns in an effort to generate/ recruit more donor prospects. Their scale and expertise allows them to effectively navigate shifts in the online market to maximize connections between activists and individuals, organizations, and responsible businesses trying to make positive impacts. Since it’s creation, Care2 has recruited over 90 million donor prospects for non-profits making them a leader in online advocacy.

In this interview, Randy outlines the initial challenges he faced while raising money to start Care2, and his sincere belief in creating an “engine for good” business model where good actions generate revenues that will help fuel more good actions. He discusses the concept that positive feedback through donation helps drive personal motivations to do more, and offers some examples of the types of hyper local or hyper specific campaigns that work well. Randy describes how big changes with the internet, primarily through the growth of Facebook and Google, has shifted the way we engage with various causes and non-profits by generating “interruptions” on social media. This may play an important role in the general increase seen in activism. As the spotlight grows on the transparency and accountability of businesses and governments, Randy mentions how these organizations will need to embrace more socially and environmentally sustainable practices.

Episode 93 Interview with Harish Hande, co-founder SELCO INDIA

ingressimage_Nae-Hamish1-300x300Harish Hande is an Indian social entrepreneur who co-founded SELCO India in 1995 to eradicate poverty by promoting sustainable technologies in rural India. SELCO India is a social enterprise that provides sustainable energy services to the poor in India, sustainable energy solutions and services to under-served households and businesses. SELCO empowers its customer by providing a complete package of product, service and consumer financing through grameena banks, cooperative societies, commercial banks and micro-finance institutions.  Harish has won numerous award including the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award, for “his pragmatic efforts to put solar power technology in the hands of the poor.” Hande was also named the Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2007 by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and the Nand & Jeet Khemka Foundation.

In this wide ranging and fascinating interview, Harish discusses the underlying myths that SELCO was set up to disprove: 1) Poor people cannot afford sustainable technologies;  2) Poor people cannot maintain sustainable technologies;  3) Social ventures cannot be run as commercial entities. Harish is outspoken about the possibilities for poor people to rise from poverty and shares his vision for helping alleviate poverty in India. He identifies the flaws at the heart of “Bottom of the pyramid” thinking—the poor as consumers-rather than also as possible innovators and entrepreneurs — and also criticises traditional thinking about “frugal innovation.” This is an hugely inspiring interview full of powerful ideas and insights based on Harish’ experience working with poorest people in India.

Episode 92: Interview with Odin Mühlenbein, Partner at Ashoka Germany and Lead of Advisory at Ashoka Globalizer

Odin MuehlenbeinOdin Mühlenbein is Partner at Ashoka Germany and Lead of Advisory at Ashoka Globalizer–an accelerator program that helps advanced social entrepreneurs from around the world develop strategies for social system change. Odin takes the learnings from Ashoka Globalizer to spread the word about system change and systems thinking, both within Ashoka and the field of social entrepreneurship. Previously, Odin worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Company and co-founded two social ventures.

 In this interview, Odin talks the growth and importance of systems entrepreneurs — and the ways in which Ashoka Globalizer promotes insights and learnings about social system change, gleaned across the Ashoka network. Odin discusses the distinct role that system change entrepreneurs can play and how social entrepreneurs more generally can embrace the power of systems thinking-and discusses the importance of “tipping points’ in systems at a global level. Odin identifies the qualities a social entrepreneur needs to cultivate in order to become a successful systems entrepreneur. Finally, he discusses the perennial challenge of funding these ventures.